Art Exhibition Promotes Healthy Eating

December 07, 2011

“Let’s Eat!” features works from George Washington University’s permanent collection paired with healthy recipes.

“Let’s Eat!” the latest exhibition now on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery’s second-floor cases, can be found at the intersection of food, health and art.

Produced in conjunction with George Washington University’s Urban Food Task Force and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens” campaign, the exhibition highlights paintings, sculptures and prints from GW’s permanent collection and pairs them with complementary healthy recipes. A still life of apples and lemons becomes apple dumplings. A bronze sculpture of swimming fish becomes roasted black sea bass.

The message: “Food and nutrition are important in every aspect of our life, including art as well as health,” said Diane Knapp, chair of the Urban Food Task Force. And that’s a particularly apt message right now. Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight; a third is obese. Cases of type 2 diabetes, a condition often triggered by excess weight, could triple to affect 1 in 3 adults by 2050. Americans are eating fatty, sugary foods, not fruits and vegetables.

Art can play a role in curbing these alarming trends, and Olivia Kohler, assistant director of University Art Galleries, said the university wanted to do its part to help. “Art has been proven to benefit emotional health, so why not use it as a tool for physical health as well?” said Ms. Kohler in remarks during the exhibition’s opening reception Wednesday.

After selecting pieces of art for the display, Ms. Kohler searched for complementary recipes. Robert Donis, executive chef at the F Street House, drew on his extensive culinary training and inspiration from the works of art to specially develop five of the healthy recipes, including scallop and clam ceviche and honey roasted squash. “You get training, and you play on that,” Mr. Donis said as he perused the gallery of works. Though it only took a few hours to develop the recipes, they incorporate a “lifetime of learning,” he said.

The newest exhibition isn’t George Washington’s first foray into merging health and art. The gallery also recently developed a “sculpture hunt,” a campus tour of outdoor works of art. Also part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, it’s “designed to get you moving around campus while also paying closer attention to these great works of art that you walk by every day,” said Ms. Kohler.

Ultimately, communicating the importance of healthy eating can come via many mediums. The “Let’s Eat!” exhibition is “just a really great part of the whole piece,” said Ms. Knapp.

Recipes can be found at the exhibition, on display on the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs Building, until Feb. 10, or online here.

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